Etiology and incidence of chronic ulcers in Blantyre, Malawi

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Abstract

Background

Little information is available on the incidence and etiology of chronic ulcers in the tropics. Therefore, the incidence and etiology of chronic skin ulcers were assessed in out-patients at the Department of Dermatology and in in-patients at the Departments of Dermatology, Surgery, Medicine, and Pediatrics, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Blantyre, Malawi.

Method

In a 10-week study period, 44 patients (31 males, 70%) with chronic skin ulcers were diagnosed from 6292 patients seen by the departments involved.

Results

The mean age of patients with ulcers was 38 years (range, 9 months to 82 years). The most frequent cause of ulcers was bacterial infection (n = 22), followed by malignancy (n = 11) and trauma (n = 7).

Conclusion

In contrast with developed countries, venous and diabetic ulcers were uncommon. In addition to bacterial infections, a surprisingly large number of malignancies were found in this study. We speculate that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, which is seen with a high prevalence at QECH, is a contributing factor. Because of the large number of malignancies, we recommend early histopathologic investigation of chronic ulcers in this part of Africa.

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